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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

Better Late Than Never: celebrity bucket-listers bounce back in new season

Better Late Than Never and its senior-citizen celebs return with more screwball adventure, engaging camaraderie and amazing destinations around the world

Henry Winkler in Morocco in the new series of 'Better Late than Never'. Courtesy NBC
Henry Winkler in Morocco in the new series of 'Better Late than Never'. Courtesy NBC

William Shatner may no longer be zipping across the cosmos as Star Trek’s Captain Kirk, but the 87-year-old actor still has the impulse power to rack up some crazy mileage and wildly amusing cultural encounters as a globetrotting member of Better Late than Never.

He and his celebrity companions on this picaresque reality show return for a second season this Wednesday on OSN. This time, actor Henry Winkler, 72, boxer George Foreman, 69, and football player Terry Bradshaw, 69, take a boisterous journey to Munich, Berlin, Lithuania, Sweden, Barcelona, Madrid and Morocco.

Stand-up comedian and actor Jeff Dye, 35, is also back as their minder – and occasional babysitter of sorts – which is no easy chore among a feisty, opinionated, grumpy pack of old boys with such diverse bucket lists.

Better Late than Never has given me the opportunity of a lifetime to travel all over the world with four incredible guys,” says Winkler, who is also executive producer.

Although he is fondly remembered as the cool, greaser Fonzie from Happy Days, he also stars opposite Bill Hader in HBO’s new comedy series Barry, about a depressed hitman who wants to be an actor.

The artful codgers navigate their way through seven cities and five countries in this new series, immersing themselves in traditions, culture and customs, although their immersion sometimes appears more like a confrontation and an excuse to get riled up.

The five friends also put their stomachs to the test as they sample palate-challenging culinary delicacies; take part in Oktoberfest in Munich; ride camels in the Sahara Desert; and undergo matador training to face off against a gnarly bull in the oldest matador ring in Madrid.

All of this makes you wonder how much the liability and life insurance must have cost to even make this show possible.

In one highlight, they also meet songwriting legend Bjorn Ulvaeus of Abba fame in Sweden, and join him in an impromptu performance for hundreds of adoring fans.

“Fonzie” Winkler gets to ride and rev a motorbike again, along with his entourage, as they discover the African country of Morocco.

They also become lost in Russia, leave their mark on the remnants of the historic Berlin Wall, go parasailing in Barcelona, and recreate their own Julie Andrews The Hills are Alive moment as they parody the opening scene from The Sound of Music on top of the Bavarian Alps.

But be warned – there are raw scenes of these men, all somewhat past their prime, doing things you cannot “unsee”, such as Bradshaw getting “beach ready” in Barcelona with a body wax, and Winkler posing as a life art model (with some clever camera angles used to keep it all tasteful).

Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, Jeff Dye, George Foreman, William Shatner. Courtesy NBC
Henry Winkler, Terry Bradshaw, Jeff Dye, George Foreman, William Shatner. Courtesy NBC

Nicely sprinkled, however, amid the laughs are some poignant and heartfelt moments that may have you reaching for a tissue or two as a few cast members reconnect with their pasts.

Winkler, for example, retraces the path of his family in Berlin, some of whom perished at Auschwitz.

Foreman, meanwhile, experiences an emotional meeting with the Lithuanian family of the late boxer Jonas Cepulis, who Foreman defeated at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics to win a gold medal that skyrocketed his career.

Special guest stars this season include actor-singer David Hasselhoff and American television personality Al Roker, with more surprises supposedly in store.

Winkler has worked as a director, actor, writer and producer for decades, and he says he’s particularly grateful for both Better Late than Never and Barry.

“It’s an amazing thing that here I have two exceptional jobs. They’re like gifts that fell out of the heavens,” he told Smashing Interviews of the diverse shows.

“On Better Late than Never, it’s very hard work, but it’s extraordinary. I watch the episodes as they are on TV, and it’s amazing.

“I’m telling you, it’s amazing what we eat, what we learn, what we get to visit, who we meet, what we learn about each other. It’s exceptional.”

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Shatner says that the biggest change between the first and second season is the comfort level that’s grown between the famous, and opinionated, travel companions.

“Well, we got to know each other,” he said. “We made our bones on the first show. And now it’s like old friends getting together and having a good time.

“We’re told by the editors and the producers that this season is really terrific. It’s tighter and funnier, we knew what we were doing.”

Better Late than Never airs at 11pm on Wednesday on OSN Series Comedy HD. See local listings for more viewing times